News in Brief

Moscow-Tbilisi Peace Talks

GENEVA -- Russia and Georgia sat down for new peace talks in Geneva on Wednesday after exchanging accusations about troops posted in and around the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The two sides discussed how to prevent shootings and other clashes that have been an obstacle to restoring tensions since the August war that uprooted more than 160,000 people, a European diplomat said. He declined to be identified because the parties agreed not to comment before the end of the talks Thursday. (AP)

Aleksanyan Denounces Bail

Vasily Aleksanyan, a jailed former executive of Yukos who suffers from full-blown AIDS, denounced the $1.8 million bail demanded for his release as "beyond imagination" on Wednesday.

Aleksanyan, whose assets were frozen after his 2006 arrest on embezzlement and money-laundering charges, said in a statement that his condition makes it even more difficult to raise the huge amount demanded by the Moscow City Court. He called the court decision a "cynical derision of law and common sense." (AP)

Radio Criticizes Kyrgyzstan

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty condemned as "unacceptable" conditions set by authorities in Kyrgyzstan for the network to resume broadcasting in the country.

The network said its Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, will not be allowed to broadcast unless its programming is first submitted to the government for approval or guarantees it will not be offensive. (AP)

Concern at Uzbek Sentences

BRUSSELS -- The European Union said it was seriously concerned by the 10-year jail terms given to a journalist and a rights activist in Uzbekistan and called on the authorities to ensure they were not mistreated.

In October, the EU eased sanctions against the country, which is seen as an important future source of EU gas imports. (Reuters)

New Shield-Piercing Rockets

Russia plans to deploy new missiles by 2020 that will be capable of piercing all air-defense systems, Strategic Missile Forces chief Nikolai Solovtsov said Wednesday.

"By 2015-2020 the strategic rocket forces will be equipped with entirely new missile systems with improved tactical and technical characteristics," Solovtsov said in comments posted on Vesti-24's web site. "They will be capable of fulfilling any assignment, even in the face of anti-missile defense systems."

Russia will test 13 intercontinental ballistic missiles next year, including five test launches of new missiles, Solovtsov said, Interfax reported. (Bloomberg)

Lavrov Hopeful on Obama

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that he hoped Moscow would negotiate a new arms control deal with Barack Obama's administration.

Lavrov, echoing previous comments by Kremlin and government officials, said Moscow was eager to negotiate a successor deal to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December 2009. He said the latest round of U.S.-Russian talks on a new pact in Moscow this week were useful but no breakthrough was expected. (AP)

Missiles Sent to Iran

Russia has begun delivery of long-range S-300 missiles to Iran and is in talks on a new contract for a medium-range anti-aircraft system, RIA-Novosti reported Wednesday, citing unidentified government officials in Moscow.

Weapons sales to Iran "have a positive impact on stability in this region," said Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, RIA-Novosti reported. Fomin did not comment on the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran. (Bloomberg)